Deserted Islands and Daydreams

From Paronella Park, we headed back to the coast to one of our favourite places from our trip ten years ago, Mission Beach.

Our memories of Mission Beach were of a quiet, sleepy coastal town surrounded by thick, lush rainforest. Well, the place certainly has changed. The entire area really copped it from all angles, cyclone Larry from the south, and cyclone Yasi a few years later from the north. Hardly any of the old, big trees were left standing, and you can see the devastation as you walk through the coastal lowland rainforest (or what is left of it). The rainforest will recover, but the process will take decades to get it back to its former glory. This is assuming it is left alone to grow.Wongaling Beach

Alas, Mission Beach has grown in popularity over the past decade. Despite the never ending fight to conserve rainforest corridors for the critically endangered southern cassowary, money hungry developers and councils continue to push development. They estimate numbers of birds to be as little as 1000 in the wild now. Mission Beach used to boast the highest concentration within the wet tropics, but with all the environmental pressure, numbers are falling. Yet the close knit locals continue to fight for the birds, collecting seeds from poo, germinating saplings and assisting regenerating the rainforest. As it comes from the poo, the grown trees are native fruit trees providing food for the cassowaries and other native species. The process can take years, but the locals have not lost their passion.

So if you want to visit the area, and can spare a few days, arrange to do some volunteering at the environment centre to help save the cassowary. I wish we could have, but it is a bit difficult with young kids in tow.

While at Mission Beach, we took a water taxi to check out Dunk Island, and to explore Bedarra. Cyclone Yasi had pretty much totalled the resorts on these two islands, and they have been left closed to overnight visitors ever since. Dunk Island is on the market, but needs some work to get up and running again. Bedarra was famous for its rich and famous visitors, and also its celebrity price tag at $1600-$3200 per night. It has been abandoned now, with only two staff to keep an eye on things. A second resort at the other side of the island was abandoned in 1991. We were let off there for a few hours to explore the remains, and to swim off a deserted beach. It was actually loads of fun.Bedarra Island

From Mission Beach we had a bit of a meander down the coast, taking advantage of some excellent free camping spots, right beside the beach. Unfortunately swimming was out of the question, due to crocodiles and the start of the stinger season. But we enjoyed our long walks and the lovely views.

We managed a flyby stop in Townsville, where we visited our first Multicultural Playgroup. To read about our visit, click here.

We also spent a couple of pleasant days in Bowen, now on the Aussie map due to its Big Mango, and its massive role as the Darwin Backdrop in the film ‘Australia’. Boy, are they milking it.Murray bay

Our next big stop was Airlie Beach, and our stay coincided with the annual ‘Come Camp with BIG4’. Every year in November, BIG4 nationwide put aside one night for charity. Basically, anyone can camp for $20 per site, and all the money goes to a local charity nominated by the individual parks. It is a great way to put something back into the community, and give visitors a great excuse to get away and have some fun.

To read about our fabulous stay at the BIG4 Adventure Whitsundays Resort at Airlie Beach, click here.

Illusions CruiseLagoon @ DaydreamNow the thing to do from Airlie beach is to go on trips around the Whitsunday Islands. There are plenty of island resorts to visit and nice beaches with snorkeling. We couldn’t decide what to do, so we ended up doing two day trips. The first trip was on a sailing catamaran and have a go at snorkeling with the kids. The second we visited Daydream Island to check out the resort and its manmade ‘Living Reef’, and then spend an hour on the famous Whitehaven Beach. We tried to teach the kids how to play beach cricket, but after a while they just wanted to dig holes and build sandcastles in the perfect while sand. We all had a great time, but now we want to add overnight sailing trip to our to-do list for the future.

Whitehaven BeachKids at play on Whitehaven beachAll this swimming and water activity has finally resulted in Rhys losing his long-term fear of water. The BIG4 had waterslides into the pools, and he was constantly up and down. He is also learning how to jump into the pool, but the word ‘jump’ is lost on him, and he always looks like he is falling. Forever amusing.Slide time

We will soon be leaving the tropics, after spending more than six months above the Tropic of Capricorn. But that’s OK as the southern Summer is upon us.
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